Use Time Sensitive Vocabulary to Increase Urgency

Certain time-related words and phrases inspire action, such as "now," "today," "before the deadline passes," "right away," "time is of the essence," and "by the end of business today" (or "in an hour," or by any other specified deadline). This time-sensitive vocabulary creates a sense of urgency while maintaining a professional, business-like tone.

While the above and similar phrases create a sense of timeliness, try to avoid the clich├ęd generic phrase "as soon as possible" (or its abbreviation, ASAP). It is ineffective. Instead, integrate the effective words and phrases listed above into the content of your communications. Consider the following examples:

"Three o'clock is the deadline for submissions . . ."

"Your report raised several important issues that I want to review with you within the next several days."

"Before we meet tomorrow, we need to . . ."

"By the end of the day, I'll need a full accounting of . . ."

"Now that I've reviewed your proposal, I have several questions . . ."

"Call Ms. Carter right away and assure her of our full support."

Can you hear the sense of urgency that's implied? In each example, the terminology is natural. The sentence flows. It sounds right. That's good writing.

EXERCISE 9: Add Urgency Through Time-Sensitive Vocabulary

Rewrite the E-mail lead (the first phrase or sentence) below to integrate a time-sensitive word or phrase.

Hi Team:

According to Max and Jonathan, the ABC Company has accepted our proposal pending clarification of a few issues. This is great news, and we want to be sure to address their concerns pronto! Let's go over the specifics at 9 a.m. tomorrow. Confirm with Cathy that you'll be there.

What do you think? Did you notice the salutation? Starting an E-mail with "Hi" instead of the more traditional "Dear" signals a less formal tone. Using the category salutation "team" is a good way of indicating a group purpose.

Go ahead. Calculate the Empathy Index, then compare your assessment with the following analysis. (References to the team are in boldface and the reference to Jan, the writer, is underlined. Note that references to "we," and "our" aren't counted because they include both the team and Jan.)

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